Memories of Houghton’s cricket club - and the man who was a big part of it all

Mike Hoban.
Mike Hoban.

A nostalgic tribute has been paid to a former cricket club – and a stalwart who did so much to support it during its best days.

As the 2017 local cricket season comes to a close, we take a look at Houghton-le-Spring Cricket Club.

Sadly, the club itself no longer exists and a club official told us: “The demise of the club has coincided with the recent sad loss of its former opening batsman, secretary and key administrator – Mike Hoban.”

Chris Cordner reports.

A man who lifted others with smiles of happiness.

That was Mike Hoban who was a real spur to cricket in Houghton.

And we are indebted to both former club officials and Mike’s family for sharing the story of Houghton’s best cricket days, in which he played a large part.

As one official put it, Houghton were a team which competed with the best during the early 1990s. He said it was “largely due to the sterling efforts of Mike”.

Mike’s son Neil told us: “He was a kind, giving person and he would try and help other people.”

Every club has got them, said Neil. And just like others who give their free time so generously, Mike could often be found sorting out the cricket pads, doing some other behind-the-scenes task, or simply doing his utmost to help other people.

Yet it was Houghton which played a large part in his life, said one spokesman of the former club.

Houghton were initially a ‘Colliery Welfare’ outfit playing in the Mid Durham Senior League before joining the North East Durham League.

During the 1970s and 1980s the team had no official base. It relied on “the goodwill of the management committee at Newbottle Workingmens’ Club, a few dedicated cricketers, friends of friends and some footballers, who needed something to do during the close season,” said the official.

During this period, Mike performed miracles to ensure the club’s future.

“Home matches were played at Harraton, now the home of Premier League outfit Washington and for one season the club played their home fixtures at Seaham Leisure Centre.

“During these two decades Houghton were a competitive side, the first XI won the George Coates Trophy in 1974, and won the Henry Bainbridge Cup in 1974, 1978 and 1983.

The second XI was reformed and won the Robert Dunnett Trophy in 1986.”

The club returned to Houghton in 1987 and were elected to the Durham Coast League in 1989, managing to win five league games, something of an achievement in itself.

During that season, Mike (aged 43) scored his maiden century against Bill Quay.

After two games of the 1990 season, Mike decided to “hang up his boots” to devote his attentions to “on field” and “off field” matters.

His last significant contribution on the field was taking a catch to dismiss the Bill Quay professional.

The official added: “He worked tirelessly behind the scenes attracting quality players to the club.

Dale Froud was the Houghton club’s first ever professional, his brother Glen joined other imports such as newly appointed skipper Graham Flaxen, Michael Kearney, Andrew Robinson, all rounder Ian Hauxwell, Geoff Bussey and Steven Whitehead.

“Later in the season, Duncan Forrest and Gary Dawson would join the club. Only legendary wicketkeeper Des Pratt remained from the ‘good old days’. It is generally considered that the harder you work the luckier you become.”

Houghton clinched the 1990 Coast League Championship and that season the second team led by Billy Bilton lifted the Ralph Walton Cup.

The club were becoming a name to be reckoned with and victories were achieved against sides including Thornaby, Hetton Lyons, Sacriston and South Northumberland.

Watch for more on Mike and the nostalgic days of Houghton le Spring Cricket Club next week.